The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that retail sales were unchanged in July following a modest 0.2 percent gain in June and, for the second month in a row, auto sales declined.
Motor vehicle sales dropped 0.2 percent after falling 0.3 percent the month prior, but the July weakness was not only in autos as retailers in five of the thirteen major categories reported lower receipts. Excluding motor vehicles, sales rose just 0.1 percent and, excluding both autos and gasoline, sales were also up just 0.1 percent.
General merchandise stores saw sales drop 0.5 percent and smaller declines were reported at furniture stores, electronics stores, and at nonstore retailers (e.g., internet sales). Strength was reported at clothing stores and health stores where sales rose 0.4 percent and miscellaneous store retailers saw an even larger increase of 0.9 percent for the month.
After robust GDP growth during most of the second quarter, it appears the American consumer may be taking a break over the summer, at least when it comes to buying cars.